We need to have a discussion about how when other people make life decisions, they’re not about us. They’re about them, and what they want to do. This is something I have been pondering a lot lately as a somewhat carefree black woman in Harare, skirting many notions of respectability. People seem to often be under the impression that the way in which I choose to live my life is not about me, it’s somehow about them. Nope. It’s about me. I’m the protagonist in the story of my life (yes, I really did just write that.)
In Zimbabwe we are really good at groupthink and being offended when it seems as though the group has been insulted. People seem to find it personally offensive when I do not accept the societally condoned notions of good living and good decision making. Further, they seem to think that opting out of said standards means that I am now judging them and thinking less of them. This stance seems to be further underpinned by the fact that as a society we don’t seem to think that women, especially young women are particularly good at deciding things. Only exceptional women are decision makers and leaders. Infantilisation continues to be the order of the day as though I am just inherently ill equipped to have any form of autonomy let alone life/ bodily autonomy. Apparently in order to assuage others’ qualms I must either fall in line with the mainstream narrative of productive living or I must be apologetic for making different decisions and concede that I am not of sound mind.
Case in point: I just had a run in with a guy I met at a programming hub who seemed to be under the impression that my decision not to train with said hub – that I found to be sketch at best and exploitative at worst, was somehow about him. He genuinely got miffed when I told him why I ducked out and attempted to engage me at length on why I had missed out on an opportunity of a lifetime and that really it would’ve been worth it in the end. The line, “That’s the problem with you lawyers,” was actually said. He seemed to be very much under the impression that I was somehow judging him for his life decisions and contemplating a crusade of mockery for all those who made choices different to my own. Nope. Whilst I wasn’t trying to offend him, I also wasn’t about to pander to his fragile ego and inflated sense of self, by acting as though my ability to make decisions for my life was somehow compromised. So I told him straight up, that though the skills were indeed desirable, I was certain I could acquire them in a way I found to be ethically tenable. We had both made decisions and both of us had made said decisions with the best possible understanding of our lives and our individual values. That is perfectly fine. We must all be left to make our decisions and live our lives (with the standard caveats re harming others). Could we kindly stay in our lanes.